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A more sustainable future: Europe’s expandable wind energy potential

Europe’s wind farms may provide enough renewable energy to meet demands of the world.

Photo by Kai Gradert (Unsplash)

by Nidhiyaa Anagananthan

As the demand for sustainable energy increases, the search for sources also spreads. The European Commission’s Energy Strategy for 2050 aims to expand renewable energy supply and to decrease greenhouse gas emissions. The solution lies in largely untapped wind energy, which could enable us to meet the world’s capacity for distributable energy and electricity.

Wind farms in Europe provide highly sustainable renewable and low-carbon energy. Recent research conducted by the University of Sussex and Aarhus University revealed that wind turbines onshore alone have the capacity to meet world energy demands right up to 2050. A spatial analysis using Geographical Information System (GIS) found that about 46 percent of land on Europe could house wind turbines. Theoretically, eleven million wind turbines could be installed onshore over a 5-million-kilometre terrain. The study also identified Turkey, Russia, and Norway as having the greatest potential to house wind farms.

Recent research conducted by the University of Sussex and Aarhus Univeristy revealed that wind turbines onshore alone have the capacity to meet world energy demands right up to 2050.

In 2005, researchers concluded that 20% of wind power potential energy would meet the world’s energy demands and now, after advancements in renewable energy technology, the number has risen to contribute about 400, 000GW global nameplate capacity. Recently, in 2017, 169GW of wind power was installed in Western European countries, which contribute 31% of the world’s global nameplate capacity. This number can only grow in the future.

The possibility of producing 200% of the world’s demand of energy is underway. The goal remains to install 100,000 wind turbines by 2050. So far, 20% of the capacity has been achieved in the past two years just through onshore turbines, and the industry is still capable of growth offshore. Statistics from the analysis conducted by the University of Sussex reveal that the number of wind turbines installed has been gradually increasing onshore and less offshore of Europe the past few years. Although onshore turbines have been favoured due to their cheaper costs and their more established use, offshore turbines may be worth the investment due to their higher efficiency and consistent direction.

A lesser number of offshore turbines are required to provide the same amount of energy as onshore turbines.

The criticism and public concerns may linger. However, Peter Enevoldsen, assistant professor in the Center for Energy Technologies at Aarhus University says, “Even without accounting for developments in wind turbine technology in the upcoming decades, onshore wind power is the cheapest mature source of renewable energy, and utilizing the different wind regions in Europe is the key to meet the demand for a 100% renewable and fully decarbonized energy system.”

The only limitations may be the policies that bind energy production in Europe and the remaining public scrutiny that stems from environmental and aesthetic concerns. However, this study may be the key to reviewing existing policies and for countries to expand their energy sources for a more sustainable future.


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